In his latest Trading Stories, Working Lives article, Graham Barker takes a closer look at how his relative Edward Collis earned a living as a cabinet marker, upholster and furniture broker in Victorian Leicester
There’s a tantalising glimpse of Edward Collis’ Church Gate premises in this photo taken around 1878-84. Alas, the Central Cabinet & Upholstery Furnishing Establishment was not Edward’s showroom – his was more modest, a door or two down Church Gate – but this corner appears to have been a furniture-buying hotspot, in the shadow of the Clock Tower. By 1885, the corner building had been replaced by the East Gates Coffee House, which stills stands there today.
An advert in 1870 presents Edward as running a steady, respectable business, sustained by “the kind and liberal support bestowed upon him during the past 17 years.” When the Church Gate premises are auctioned in 1874 – for the third time during his tenancy – it is time to move. Edward relocates to 9 Belgrave Gate but it proves to be only a short-term measure; two years later, he “is retiring from the Cabinet Manufacturing Department of his business, and in consequence of the premises being sold to the Leicester Tramways Company,” he not only auctions off his supplies of “superior Mahogany, Oak, and Walnut veneers” but also takes the opportunity to prune his stock of “massive oak and Spanish mahogany suites in costly Utrecht velvets, morocco and real leather… marqueterie and buhl cabinets… Arabian and French bedsteads…” and other opulent sounding pieces.
Download the full story here: Edward Collis, a Victorian cabinet maker, upholsterer and furniture broker
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